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From the Email Bag – Scammers Target Websites for Children
By Christine Durst & Michael Haaren
May 10, 2012
Dear Rat Race Rebellion:
My daughter, who is 8, recently began visiting websites for children,
where she plays games. But suddenly my computer is really slow, and
friends have been telling me that they get spam emails from me, too. Do
you think this has anything to do with my daughter’s online
activities? – Sandra in Spokane, Wash.
It’s quite possible that your daughter has fallen prey to viruses
or other malware embedded in the sites she visits. Childrens’
website Neopets, for example, was reported to have been infiltrated by
identity thieves as far back as 2009. When children tried to buy a
“magic paintbrush,” they were actually downloading
malicious code that stole financial data from their parents’
computers. Worse, scammers are even more sophisticated now, and parents
have even less time to oversee online activity.
If you have teens in the house, also beware websites offering
“free ring tones” for cell phones, which often lead to
monthly billing charges once personal data is captured.
Teens should also be on guard when visiting sites tied to teen
celebrities. For example, not long ago Lady Gaga’s Facebook page
carried a message touting “free iPads.” Unbeknownst to the
singer, the offer was allegedly tied to scammers. Thousands of people
may have been duped into providing personal information before the
offer was removed.
Finally, make sure you have up-to-date antivirus protection from such
providers as McAfee or Norton, and be sure that your hard drive is
Dear Rat Race Rebellion:
I visited a news website recently that seemed kind of odd. The tabs
across the top such as “Sports” and “Weather”
led to the same page, and the whole thing was trying to sell me some
work-at-home “ecommerce kit.” What’s up with that?
– George in St. Louis, Mo.
Dear George: The
Federal Trade Commission has been trying to root out these sites, but
many remain. The intention is to dupe visitors into thinking
they’re visiting a trustworthy media site, then sell them various
work-at-home schemes, usually involving affiliate marketing.
Once victims sign up, their credit cards are often subjected to
repeated monthly billings. Worse, personal information is often sold at
a nice profit to “boiler rooms.” These call centers then
contact victims and use high-pressure sales tactics to induce them to
buy expensive “coaching programs” to “optimize their
investment” in the work-at-home scheme. The
“programs” can cost as much as $15,000 or more.
But spotting these bogus media sites is fairly straightforward, once
you’ve seen a few. For example, you’ll often find a
legitimate media video clip (stolen from a TV station website)
discussing home-based jobs or trends. The clip will usually appear
blurry from the scammers’ slapdash coding or repeated copying.
Phony testimonials, too – with photos from stock photography
sites or stolen from other websites – are often included to
reinforce trust. These will have a generic or “plain
vanilla” look, meant to appeal to as many potential victims as
Finally, as you noticed, the tabs across the top of the page are
off-kilter, too. They’ll often lead not to weather or sports, but
to the work-at-home scheme or other bogus material.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are leaders in the work-at-home
movement and advocates of de-rat-raced living. Their latest book
is Work at Home Now,
a guide to finding home-based jobs. They offer additional guidance on
finding home-based work at www.RatRaceRebellion.com. To read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2012 BY STAFFCENTRIX, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM